Immigration Status Classifications
Faculty & Staff Immigration Services works with employment-based classifications. The hiring department generally initiates contact with Immigration Services for assistance in determining the appropriate classification, if any, for prospective or current professional foreign national employees. A brief description of these classifications is listed below. For more detailed information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- TN: The easiest classification to obtain is the TN work authorization that resulted from NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The basic requirements for an individual to obtain TN status to work in the U.S. is that they be either a Canadian or Mexican citizen, and that they be a professional in one of the authorized professions. The TN may be renewed up to 3 years, and there is no limit on the number of years it may be renewed.
- H-1B: This classification is reserved for skilled professionals from other countries, including Canada and Mexico. Again, the profession must be one authorized by the USCIS. The employer may petition for H-1B status for an eligible individual for up to 3 years at a time, but no more than 6 years total. At the end of the six years, the foreign national must leave the U.S. for at least one year before they are eligible to seek H-1B status for another 6 year period.
- O-1: This classification is reserved for "Aliens of Extraordinary Ability in the Sciences, Education, Business, and Athletics" and "Aliens of Extraordinary Ability in the Arts." Although it is a category for which not everyone is eligible, it may be characterized as the best employment-based nonimmigrant status one could have. You may petition for up to 3 years in the initial petition, after which time it must be renewed annually. There is no limit on the number of years it may be renewed, although it is questionable whether the USCIS would approve extensions in this category indefinitely (outside estimate may be around 10-12 years, but perhaps longer). One reason the O-1 is so attractive for some people is that it is possible to change status from J to O without the necessity of satisfying the 2-year foreign residency requirement to which so many J holders are subject. For more information on the J visa status, or the waiver of the 2-year requirement, please contact the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS).
- E-3: This classification is reserved for skilled workers from Australia. An employer may petition for E-3 status for an individual in one of the authorized positions for up to 2 years at a time. There is no limit to the number of years for which the E-3 status can be renewed.
The dependent spouse and family members of a foreign national in any of these three nonimmigrant categories may attend school, but they are prohibited from working in anything other than a volunteer capacity. It is possible, however, for a dependent to obtain their own TN, H-1B, or O-1 if they can independently qualify for any of these categories.
PERM Labor Certification: This is the common name for the process by which Exceptional Ability Aliens, Advanced-Degree Professionals, and Skilled Professionals (Professionals with Bachelor's Degrees) obtain permanent resident status. This is by far the most common route to employment-based permanent resident status, but it is also the most time-consuming. It is a 3-step process wherein:
- The University first documents the recruitment and selection process and files it online with the Department of Labor. There are several key elements to keep in mind for Labor Certifications: The initial form must be filed with the Department of Labor no more than 18 months from the foreign national's date of selection (date Affirmative Action approves the hiring of the individual or the date of the job offer letter) for a faculty position, and no more than 6 months from the time of the first advertisement for a P&S position. The USCIS requires that for non-teaching faculty and P&S, the individual must be shown to have been the "only qualified" applicant.
- When certified by the Department of Labor, the University files the I-140 petition with the USCIS.
- Adjustment of Status is the final step in attaining permanent residency. It is the foreign national's responsibility (as the petitioner) to complete this final step by filing the USCIS Form I-485. The foreign national and each member of his or her family must either file to adjust status in the United States, or travel abroad to complete consular processing. Upon the completion of either of these final steps, the foreign national and dependent family members (spouse and children under age 21) become lawful permanent residents. If the Foreign National wishes to utilize The University of Iowa Office of Immigration Services for these applications, we must charge an administrative fee to cover the costs incurred in preparing and filing these applications. For more information on this process please contact our office at email@example.com.